2012 Anzac of the Year
The Student Volunteer Army
With compassion and commitment their most powerful weapons, the Student Volunteer Army is the 2012 Anzac of the Year.
The Student Volunteer Army, utilising brains and brawn, created a legion of volunteers to help a community in need, providing a shoulder to shoulder service alongside the many New Zealand service organisations that willingly, and commendably, rose to the call with the spirit of volunteering, beyond normal obligation, that came to the fore following the Christchurch earthquakes.
This band of students and volunteers took on the forces of nature with a combination of today’s technology and the good old Kiwi spade, displaying in bucket loads the spirit of comradeship and commitment at the very heart of Anzac. Their selfless service in a positive and compassionate manner is exemplified by the way students abandoned their studies, time and time again, after each new liquefaction event.
The Student Volunteer Army was initiated by University of Canterbury student Sam Johnson. Following the 7.1 magnitude Christchurch earthquake on 4 September 2010, Sam set up the Student Volunteer Army Facebook page where students could find information about how to volunteer. In the two weeks following the earthquake, the Student Volunteer Army organised placement, transport, food and support for over 2,500 volunteers. Focussing on low risk areas during the immediate response period, they helped cleared over 65,000 tonnes of liquefaction.
After the devastating 6.3 earthquake on 22 February 2011, the Student Volunteer Army was deployed again, but with even greater efficiency and effectiveness to successfully dispatch thousands of volunteers within a three week period. As well as the mass-deployment of volunteers to deal with liquefaction, working with contractors and others to clear over 360,000 tonnes in over 75,000 volunteer working hours, the wellbeing of residents was also a focus, offering hot meals, clean water and coordination for resources and services that otherwise may not have been used.
The Student Volunteer Army also supplied and managed operations for various organizations including multiple government departments, Civil Defence, and the City Council, delivering chemical toilets and information pamphlets, laying sandbags, staffing data entry and manning call centres.
Their Facebook page had over 26,000 followers by March 2011, acting as a platform to organise and coordinate volunteers and non-skilled labourers in Christchurch together with internet based mobile management technology.